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NHL Future Wager
N.Y. Rangers+250 to miss playoffs

BEST LINES: Pinnacle u95½ -125 Bet365 +250 to miss playoffs SportsInteraction u95½ -120 

Posted October 2

This wager is available at BET365 in the “To Reach Playoffs” section at the bottom of the hockey betting page but if you don’t have an account there, you can also bet the Rangers to go under 95½ points because if they do miss the playoffs, they will likely be way under that  number. We could play under 95½ too but that’s an even money wager while missing the playoffs will bring us back a healthy return of +250.

Thus, in order for the Rangers to miss the playoffs, there has to be improvements in the East from two or three teams that missed the playoffs last year and that will take the Rangers place in the postseason this year. Last year’s playoff teams in the East were Montreal, Ottawa, Boston, Toronto, Washington, Pittsburgh, Columbus and New York Rangers. We can almost be certain that Washington, Toronto, Pittsburgh and Montreal will make the playoffs again this year. Columbus has too much talent to take a step backwards so that’s five playoff teams right there. That leaves three up for grabs and it would be absolutely unreasonable to expect the Lightning to miss the playoffs again. Tampa Bay might have the best talent in the East and they are not going to repeat last year.

Assuming Tampa makes it along with our other five almost sure things, that leaves two playoff spots up for grabs between Carolina, Florida, Detroit, Boston, Philadelphia, the Rangers, the Islanders, Buffalo and New Jersey. Carolina is ready to make its move. The addition of goaltender Scott Darling stabilizes the ‘Canes on the backend behind a deep, young and very talented defense core. Carolina figures to make the playoffs too. Carolina might even be a top-3 team in the East and had they not lost more OT games than any NHL team over the past two years, they would’ve made the playoffs both years. Carolina is 100% a playoff calibre team.

To recap, we can reasonably expect Toronto, Montreal, Washington, Pittsburgh, Columbus, Tampa Bay and Carolina to make the playoffs. That would leave one open spot for the Rangers and they would have to beat out Boston, Ottawa, Florida, Philadelphia, Buffalo or the Islanders, assuming that Detroit and New Jersey have no shot. Some say Philly is a year away from exploding. Surely, the Flyers could be ahead of schedule this year. Some say Florida has too much talent to miss the playoffs. Some say Ottawa can play as good as they did last year. Some say Buffalo had the best offseason of any team in the East. One cannot count out the Bruins either. The Islanders have been 94 points or better for the last three seasons and the coaching change to Doug Weight last year showed the potential for this group. Anyone of those “bubble” teams can beat out the Rangers and some might beat them out by a wide margin.

The New York Rangers are a capped out team that is in serious need at center. Factor in a suddenly less reliant Henrik Lundqvist (we call him pure garbage) without a suitable backup safety net and we’re putting the Rangers outside the playoff picture. Kevin Shattenkirk helps the power-play but he doesn’t help that wasteland of a defense. We didn’t like the Derek Stepan trade either, at least for the short term. Stepan is an outstanding defensive-minded center who is great on the penalty kill. In 81 games last season he scored 17 goals and added 38 assists for 55 points. The Rangers are on the decline and we’re suggesting it all comes to a head this year by them missing the playoffs and/or finishing below the posted point total of 95½.

Open an account today at Pinnacle Sports and take advantage of their -104 style pricing on sides and totals, which is 60% better than other sportsbooks.

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Our Pick

N.Y. Rangers+250 to miss playoffs (Risking 3 units - To Win: 7.50)

NFL Season Win Total
Houston under 8 -115

BEST LINESPinnacle u8½ -117 Bet365 u8½ -115 SportsInteraction u8½ -135 5DIMES u8½ -110

Posted on Sept 5 

Houston under 8½ -115

This might be the best under we’ve seen in the past 30 years. The 2016 Texans won their division, which influences the number this year and provides us with this outstanding opportunity. The 2016 Texans were about as bad as a division winner can get. Consider that they ranked a lowly 29th in DVOA, (a relevant metric that measures defense adjusted value over average) safely sandwiched between two teams that fired their coaches, the San Francisco 49ers and Los Angeles Rams. This was a bad team that won some games.

The Texans joined the privileged ranks of those teams that posted a winning record while being outscored over the season. Houston posted the fourth-worst point differential for a team with a winning record since 1989, and things don't often go well for teams in that bracket. The 10 winning teams with the worst point differentials declined by an average of three wins the following season.

Those numbers do not bode well for the Texans, nor does one element of the game that often regresses toward the mean from year to year. Houston was terrible on special teams last season, finishing dead last in DVOA while finishing well below league average on everything except punt returns. Normally, teams will make a change in their coaching staff or personnel, and that, combined with some randomness, will push a truly bad special-teams unit toward the middle of the pack. The problem, though, is that the Texans were also last in special-teams DVOA last season, at which point they fired Bob Ligashesky and hired Larry Izzo. They were 28th under Ligashesky in 2014, 29th in 2013 and last in 2012. It has been five seasons since Houston peeked out from the bottom five in the league in special teams. You would think that might inspire personnel changes but the Texans brought back kicker Nick Novak and punter Shane Lechler on one-year extensions and will return four of their six most frequent special-teams players from a year ago. None of this inspires any confidence that things will be different in 2017.

The Texans played in a putrid division last year but things are improving greatly in the AFC South. The Jaguars imported arguably the two best defensive players in free agency with Calais Campbell and A.J. Bouye, the latter of whom was Houston's top cornerback in 2016. Indianapolis hired general manager Chris Ballard and spent the offseason finally making coherent moves for its defense, although Andrew Luck's shoulder is a concern. The Titans profited from robbing the Rams last year by adding two first-round picks to their roster at positions of notable weakness. Meanwhile, the Texans weren't able to do much in free agency this offseason, thanks to their spending spree from a year ago and the $9 million in dead money they're eating on Osweiler's contract. The one downside to winning its division is that Houston will be stuck playing the Patriots and Chiefs in 2017, while the rest of their division plays lesser teams from the AFC East and West. The Texans also play in Seattle, Cincinnati, and Baltimore among others while hosting games against Pittsburgh and Arizona. That’s very likely five losses right there. They could easily go 0-5 to open the year with games against Jacksonville, New England, Cinci, Tennessee and K.C. before they play Cleveland in Week 6.

The Texans did beat the Kansas City Chiefs by seven points last season and they had another seven-point victory over the Detroit Lions. Otherwise, Houston was eking out wins against the AFC South and the likes of the Chicago Bears and Cincinnati Bengals. Meanwhile, its average loss came by 13.3 points, including a 27-point loss to the Patriots with Jacoby Brissett at quarterback on a short week. The Texans were really 8-1 in meaningful one-score games, given that they lost a meaningless Week 17 game to a Matt Cassel-led Titans team -- and even that required a late Brock Osweiler rushing touchdown to make it close. Houston's largest win of the season was over the lowly Bears in the opener by nine points. Meanwhile, it had three losses of 18 points or more. We find it hard to believe Tom Savage is likely to be better than Brock Osweiler over any stretch of time or until Deshaun Watson inevitably takes over.

Houston is one of the worst teams in the NFL that went 8-2 in one score games last year. Pay more attention to its average loss of two TD’s and three losses of 18 points or more. Frankly, we’re not expecting them to win five games, let alone nine to beat us and if you are going to make just one over/under bet this season for wins, this should be it.

Open an account today at Pinnacle Sports and take advantage of their -104 style pricing on sides and totals, which is 60% better than other sportsbooks.

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Our Pick

Houston under 8 -115 (Risking 3.45 units - To Win: 3.00)

NFL Season Win Total
Oakland under 9 -120

BEST LINES Pinnacle u9½ -128 Bet365 u9½ -120 SportsInteraction u10½ -208 5DIMES u9½ -130

Posted on Sept 5

Oakland under 9½ -120 

We’re always preaching that nobody can predict the outcome of games because of in-game variance that causes so many twists and turns in almost every football game. Thus, teams that were very fortunate last year are in line for regression while teams’ that got unlucky are in line for improvement. We’ll now take that information and apply it to Oakland’s season win total to easily go under the number.

First off, the Raiders got a healthy season from its expensive offensive line with its five starters playing 74 of 80 games. Five of those missed games were from right tackle Austin Howard, who was generally considered to be the line's weakest link before being cut this season, a week before the opener. Key backup Menelik Watson is also gone, to Denver, so a less effective season from the line could cancel out any improvements from luring Marshawn Lynch out of retirement. Over/under win totals do not take injuries into consideration because they are unforeseeable but there is practically no chance of the Raiders staying as healthy as they did last year.

How many times have you heard this, “Whoever wins the turnover battle will win the game”?. Turnovers won or lost is not a skill. The Raiders were opportunistic enough to produce the league's sixth-best takeaway rate on a per-possession basis. Combined with Derek Carr chopping his interception rate in half, the Raiders' turnover differential hit plus-16, which was tied with the Chiefs for the best mark in the league. Winning the turnover battle wins games but turnover margin from year to year is markedly inconsistent. Need proof? From 1989 to 2015, there were 41 teams to post a turnover differential between plus-15 and plus-20. Their average turnover margin was plus-17.3. The following year, those teams had an average turnover differential of plus-2.3. They fell off by an average of 15 turnovers. Apply that to the Raiders last year and maybe they’re a .500 team. We say that because the Raiders, not coincidentally, were one of the best teams in close games in recent memory. Jack Del Rio's team went 8-1 in games decided by seven points or fewer. Now apply the turnover margin to that and it should come as no surprise that teams’ with that sort of record also struggle to keep it up. The Raiders have one of the 25 best records in one-score games from 1989 on. During their standout seasons, those other 24 teams were a combined 131-6-1 (.953) in one-score games. The following year, those same teams -- stocked with quarterbacks such as Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger and Steve Young -- went a combined 87-88 (.497) in games decided by seven points or fewer.

In Week’s 1, 4, 5 and 8 last year, Oakland was incredibly lucky to win. There were other week’s too in which many things had to go right but those aforementioned weeks stand out as extremely good fortune:  

In Week 1, Oakland beat the New Orleans Saints when the Raiders scored a TD with 47 seconds left to come within one point before successfully converting a two-pointer to make it 35-34. Del Rio's decision to go for two, could just as easily turned into a loss.

In Week 4, the Raiders nearly blew a 17-10 lead against the Tennessee Titans when Andre Johnson caught a game-tying touchdown pass on the 13-yard line, only to be flagged for a questionable offensive pass interference call. The Raiders held on for the win.

The next week, the Chargers were set to kick a 36-yard field goal that would have tied the game with 2:07 to go, only for holder Drew Kaser to fumble the snap.

In Week 8, the Raiders went to overtime with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Oakland committed penalties on each of its first two drives in overtime to push itself out of comfortable field goal range, turning one drive into a 52-yard miss and another into a punt. This time, the defense came up with two stops, giving the offense a third chance, which Carr turned into a touchdown. 

It's not to say the Raiders wouldn't have won any of those games otherwise, of course, but most would agree they were extremely fortunate to come away with five wins in five tries. History strongly suggests that Oakland’s luck in close games is extremely unlikely to occur again the following season. The arrival of Marshawn Lynch might help the Raiders grind out the clock in the fourth quarter, but the perfectly timed offensive pass interference penalties and failed field goals won't stick around.

The Indianapolis Colts have posted a .714 win percentage in seven-point contests (or less) since the 2012 season and the New England Patriots posted a .639 and nobody else even tops .600. That hadn't been the case for Carr before 2016. He and the Raiders were 2-5 in one-score contests in 2014 and 5-5 in 2015. For the Raiders to win 10 games, more things will have to go right this year than they did last year because Oakland’s schedule is so difficult.

Three of Oakland’s first four games will be on the road at Tennessee, Washington and Denver. They could go 0-3 in those games. Unlikely, but it’s certainly possible. The game against Washington is in prime time on Sunday night. Oakland’s schedule for the next five games is not easy either, as they’ll host games versus Baltimore, the Chargers and K.C while playing at Buffalo and Miami in back-to-back weeks. Games’ versus K.C and Miami are both prime time games too. Winning in Buffalo is rarely easy. There is not one gimme there and by the end of that stretch, the Raiders will be nine games in with a third of those being prime time affairs. Games before and after prime time events cause look-aheads and letdowns. We’re not counting on that, we’re merely pointing out that prime time games are emotionally charged and there are before and after effects, usually.

Oakland’s final seven games will be against New England, Denver, the Giants, K.C., Philly, Dallas and the Chargers. That would be zero easy games in the final seven weeks. No Cleveland, no San Fran, no Jacksonville, no Houston, no Chicago, no Detroit, no L.A. Rams or no easy games out of 16 means the Raiders will have to get a ton of lucky breaks, stay healthy and play near flawless football to get to 10 wins and we’re very confident that they won’t get there with five of their 16 games being prime timers. Under gets the call.

Open an account today at Pinnacle Sports and take advantage of their -104 style pricing on sides and totals, which is 60% better than other sportsbooks.

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Our Pick

Oakland under 9 -120 (Risking 3.6 units - To Win: 3.00)